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European Court delivers landmark ruling in Law Centre NI case on Comprehensive Sickness Insurance

In a judgment delivered in Luxembourg today, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave a ruling in favour of a Law Centre NI client who had been refused child benefits because she was considered not to have Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) at certain points in time.

Our client is a non-EU national, living and working in Northern Ireland and is the parent of an EU national child. She challenged a decision of HMRC refusing her Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit on the basis that she did not have CSI i.e. private health insurance.

Today’s ruling confirmed that once an EU national child acquires permanent residence, there is no need for the child or their non-EU primary carer to maintain CSI to have a right to reside for benefits purposes.

The CJEU was clear, however, that before acquiring permanent residence, the EU national child is required to have CSI in place for themselves and their family members.

Significantly, this judgment confirms that CSI can include a public sickness insurance system, such as the NHS.

The ruling was in response to questions referred by the Appeal Tribunal in Northern Ireland to the CJEU under the ‘preliminary reference’ procedure which allows the Court of Justice to clarify EU law for national courts.  The reference was made in March 2020 during the Brexit transition period when EU law continued to apply in the UK.

Commenting on the case, Law Centre NI’s Legal Officer, Clare Rothwell, said:

“We are delighted with this important decision, which will have a wider significance and will benefit our client as well as many others.    

The CJEU has now clarified that the NHS meets the requirement for having Comprehensive Sickness Insurance.  CSI and the rights of EU citizens in the UK is a long-running issue and today’s judgment provides welcome clarity on this important question.  

At Law Centre NI, we use the law to transform people’s lives. This will have a massive impact on our client, who will now be able to establish that she was entitled to support from the social security system and benefit from her contributions to that very system. 

This important clarification will continue to have an impact post-Brexit and ensures that our client and others like her will be able to access the help they are entitled to.” 

Law Centre NI is grateful to Richard Drabble QC of Landmark Chambers who kindly offered his services on a pro bono basis, meaning that we were able to take this important case forward.

The full judgment of the case VI v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs C-247/20.